The Tea Party needs to get behind Financial Reform Bill

By Cody Prentiss

The Tea Party movement has been accused of being a collection of ignorant citizens convinced the government is out to get them. However, many who consider themselves a member of the disparate movement with legitimate political stances would disagree with that negative perception portrayed by the media.

An April 14 New York Times/CBS poll found a majority of Tea Partiers felt their party’s main concern was their financial future. Eight in 10 of those polled said the movement’s goal should be more concerned with economic issues.

With the Finance Regulation Bill currently making its way through the Senate, now is the perfect time for the Tea Party to become the respected movement they want to be. Wall Street will be regulated in the future. If Tea Party members get involved in the public debate as to how it will be regulated, more people would see the average  Tea Partier as an everyday Joe instead of a paranoid militiaman.

Cases of racist or homophobic remarks at rallies have helped form a negative view of Tea Partiers. At an anti-health care rally on March 20, several black caucus members and an openly gay legislator were offended by comments made by the crowd. Democratic Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver was spat on and required a police officer escort into the Capitol building.  Other Tea Party members may disagree with hateful statements made at rallies but have no way to show these prejudiced opinions do not reflect their own.

According to the Times poll those who identify with the Tea Party tended to be well-educated, white, married, male and older than 45. The poll results also showed they held more conservative views than Republicans on most issues.

The New York Times polled 1,580 adults via telephone interviews. Tea Party supporters were over sampled, for a total of 881, and then weighted to their proper proportion in the poll.

In a poll published by the Washington Post and ABC News on May 5, 28 percent of respondents said they think Tea Party members are racially prejudiced against President Barack Obama, while 61 percent said general distrust with the government is where the group gains its support. Overall, the poll finds that respondents were skeptical of the movement.

I think being skeptical of your government is healthy. In fact, I would agree less bureaucracy is usually better.

However, I think the only way to improve it is to educate yourself and participate. If Tea Party organizers and members want to rise above the negative perception these incidents created and have their voice heard in Washington, D.C., they have to solidify their stance on financial responsibility in the public eye.

That doesn’t mean they should take a cue from Republicans’ usual bout of obstructionism, which is financially irresponsible. Republicans’ major argument against the bill was made moot with the amendment saying no money would go toward bailing out too-big-to-fail banks.

I believe Wall Street brought on the recession and the system that allowed it to do that needs to be adjusted. The adjustment should be the result of bipartisan cooperation between the two parties and the input of the American people— that includes those who feel ignored.

The shaping of financial reform is a debate the Tea Party needs to be a part of. If they don’t participate, they’ll live with a policy that doesn’t represent their views and concerns. That would be a shame for members who already feel underrepresented by the government and marginalized by the media. The Tea Party sprang up because of the lack of representation people feel from the government. To become a part of this process, the Tea Party chapters spread across the United States need a united voice. Without that, opponents can point out the worst element of the movement and paint those that want a small, financially responsible government as ignorant racists.